[Travel Advice] Kingston, Jamaica

Random Observation/Comment #431: “Ya, mon. No problem.” is a great response and attitude towards life.

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We had all been Clemens’ed. That Friday morning, I had no idea where I was going that afternoon. We just opened the envelope labeled “Adventurers” and flew. Well, at least it wasn’t Haiti. This is travel advice specifically for Kingston, Jamaica and not Montego Bay or Dolphin cove typical touristy Jamaica. (We literally saw 5 tourists, and they were all either there for ganja, at Devon’s I Scream, or had made a terrible mistake with planning.)

Things Kingston, Jamaica does well:

  • Fresh fish. It’s hard to find whole live snapper in the US that hasn’t been frozen. When they steamed the fish here (with the head, of course) it tasted amazing and went for about $13 for a whole fish meal (which is a great deal).
  • Jerk chicken/pork. I love the mesquite taste from the smokey wood cooking the chicken and pork. The pork is lean and filled with flavor. If you have the time, definitely go to Scotchies for some fine jerk food.
  • People just standing around. Other than being photogenic and somewhat intimidating, they really just stand around on the streets. I’m going to call this something Jamaicans are very good at.
  • Relax. For Kingston specifically, this is not the feeling the tourist feels, but surely the feeling felt by locals.
  • Not a lot of bugs. This was from my experience in June on the mountain and by the piers. I didn’t get bit by too many mosquitos or flies. You can take this one with a grain of salt.
  • Rum cake. They’re generous with their rum for sure. It’s basically rummy pound cake, but I’m a big fan
  • Hummingbirds. On blue mountain, we stopped at the gap café and had a great lunch hanging out with hummingbirds. They’re so cute and this is actually the first time I’ve ever seen one so close in real life.
  • Blue mountain coffee. Wow. Completely worth the extra money for that smooth and rich roast.
  • Jamaican patties. I had one from juici and it was so awesome. Flakey and filled with mystery meat.

Things Jamaica can do better:

  • Less crime, please. I just had an overall sense of unease in Kingston. It’s probably because people just walk into traffic with carts of stuff. In nyc, at least jaywalking has some sense of safety. Also, beggars selling flags and washing windshields look like they want to break the window. Wiki travel did mention that Kingston was voted number 1 for murder rates. Fun.
  • Beaches. Specifically to Kingston, there’s basically just all ports. The water is still a light blue, but could certainly be bluer near these parts. If you want beaches, go to Montego Bay
  • Heavily seasoned food. I personally love the flavor, but it’s fair warning that everything is extremely salted and will require a lot of water or beer to even it out. That’s probably not a problem for most since they’re already drinking, but those health conscious probably shouldn’t be in Jamaica.
  • Completely ignored street signs. The government does a fairly good job telling people not to drink and drive or litter, but I get the feeling it’s completely ignored.
  • Homophobia. I didn’t witness this, but it did come up in a conversation with a local and I think it’s something that should be culturally addressed. If you are LGBT, it may not be a good idea to publicly state it in Kingston.

Lessons learned:

  • Definitely rent a car. Cars drive on British side, but it’s easy enough to get used to. I don’t see how a tourist could take a bus to all the main areas (not that there are too many to begin with). In fact, rent a larger car with nice suspension if you intend to drive up to blue mountain.
  • Take a drive around blue mountain with caution. The drive up has potholes and mostly single lane windy roads. Be sure to honk before going into corners and take your time.
  • Do not drive through downtown Kingston. This area of Kingston is freaking crazy and I think it wise to avoid completely. There’s a separate road if you follow the hummingbird road to new Kingston directly.
  • Eat the conch soup. I had this every night and I just love the consistency. Go to Glorias restaurant in Port Royal if you want an excellent meal for it.
  • Ask about Jamaican history. We’ve found talking to locals about Jamaican history brings up a lot of pride and shows positive interest as bar conversations go.
  • Have a daiquiri. I think the most important part about an experience like Jamaica is a cold cocktail and some pleasant quiet time alone to unwind. The fruit is supposedly amazing, so eat some fruit and take a load off.

Overall, Kingston wound up being a more bear place than we thought. It certainly wasn’t the Montego Bay touristy bit where everyone’s on spring break and parties. It’s more of the deep rooted Jamaican real world you’d never see advertised on billboards. Food is still great and people at bars are still friendly. They’ll probably just talk to you to ask the famous Scottish saying “but what are ya doin’ here?”

If you’re looking for resorts with clear water and swimming in waterfalls with hot women, fly to Montego Bay (which would have been nice…). If you want to see real Jamaica and probably be scared senseless, go to Kingston.

Also, if you wind up staying in Port royal hotel, keep an eye out for Mr Spot. He will certainly make you a great daiquiri. Asking for him by this name will instantly win friendship (what can I say? We like to be memorable.)

~See Lemons Check off Jamaica

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